Are all bad teachers mcdojos

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by Headhunter, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. Balrog

    Balrog Master of Arts

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    McDojo may have had a viable meaning at one time, but these days, it has degenerated into a buzzword that pretty much means "your style is different from mine and therefore sucks".

    Bad teachers are bad teachers, period. They may be excellent technicians, but if they can't effectively communicate their knowledge to others, then they are not good teachers.
     
  2. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    I can certainly understand your scepticism.

    But I met a man through a small classified advertisement in a newspaper. He only said he was looking for black belts, and that intrigued me. He was not looking for people from one art to teach another. I think he was looking for two things; black belts to attend testing and sign certificates for colored belts, and to teach their own art under his auspices. He was a very good martial artist, and an 8th degree in the Jhoon Rhee system before setting up his own style. So I guess there can be good reasons for seeking black belts in more than one art.
     
  3. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master Black Belt

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    In this case, they were looking for instructors to teach their program. Apparently you go to some kind of instructor training program for a few weeks to learn their program/style.
     
  4. WaterGal

    WaterGal Master Black Belt

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    Some of the things you listed are, IMO, completely tangental to decent instruction - that is, they can be done at schools with good or bad instruction. What they have in common is a focus on business and making money.

    If they're doing aftercare in addition to teaching martial arts, that's a good revenue stream for the school. It may be compensating for a poor-quality martial arts program, and certainly could be causing the owner to prioritize the babysitting over teaching, but it's not necessarily incompatible with good instruction.

    Where we're at, most families have both parents working, and the parents often can't bring the kids to class until after 6pm or sometimes even more like 7pm, so if a school picked kids up they could teach them much earlier in the day, and you'd have them coming to class every day. I think a school that offered good martial arts and aftercare could, theoretically, churn out some amazing students. I just wouldn't want to deal with the hassle of becoming a licensed childcare provider (which would require, among other things, building a playground in a back yard area and having a dedicated room...).

    We do a parent's night out like that a few times a year, and both the parents and kids love it. If we had some more young, energetic staff members willing to sacrifice their Saturday nights for extra cash, I'd totally do one every month.


    I'm not a fan of this used-car-salesman approach, but that's about business, rather than instruction.

    This is really where the "poor instruction" starts. Not everyone is interested in, or cut out for, being an instructor. They should be training instructors and assistants specially. But plenty of instructors do this kind of thing, throwing anyone with a black belt in front of a class.

    Are they all formal classes, or does the instructor break one class up into a few smaller groups to work on a specific activity, and assign an assistant to work with each group? That can be a good approach, and circulating between the groups makes sense then. But having a bunch of entirely different, unrelated childrens' classes going on at the same time in the same space is a recipe for chaos and disaster.
     
  5. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I’m not good at chopping up quotes, so bear with me...

    The aftercare portion and even the business portion don’t automatically make the instruction poor. If my kids (5 and 7) were going to sit around somewhere until 6 pm-ish or even a traditional daycare, I’d much rather them go somewhere like the place I described. They get their homework done and have physical activity. It’s a win-win. I’m not knocking that, but just showing an overall trend developing for the big picture.

    As to the money...
    Everyone’s got a right to try to make a good living and however they choose to do so, except of course illegal stuff. The tuition is quite high. In fact, it may be the highest in the area. Value for money is a personal thing.

    I have several issues with the money aspect though...
    The black belt plan sounds great on paper. It costs $4k, with all testing fees including 1st dan included. You pay that price regardless of how long it takes. If it takes 5 years, you pay $4k total. If it takes 15 years, $4k total. If you pay it off and leave before black belt, you can come back whenever you want and don’t pay until you pass your black belt test. So you have a 5 year old who stays a year then quits. Then when he’s 15 he decides he wants to go back. It’s already paid for, so there’s no charge. and at the alleged average of 5-7 years, at 5 years it’s about $80 per month. The average commercial dojo in the area is $125-$150, so it’s a great deal. On paper.

    Here’s where it falls flat - the real average is about 2 years. $4k for 2 years is almost $170 per month. And remember all the hidden fees - new uniforms, clubs, weapons, sparring gear, etc. that can only be bought in their shop. Everything has a logo on it. Everything.

    Then there’s the requirement for teaching issue. If you’re regularly teaching, you should be compensated somehow. Free or discounted merchandise, free movie nights, free SOMETHING. Nope. The way I see it, it’s a way to maximize profits. Tell them it’s a requirement so you don’t have to pay more staff.

    All students, regardless of age, have to sign up for the black belt plan. Is it really ethical to have a 5 year old in a multi-year contract? Enough said about that.

    All would be excusable if the teaching was great. The classes aren’t structured as you theorized when I was there. They all bowed in together, then the various groups went their separate ways, seemingly separated by age. There were 14-16 year olds running their own groups, assisted by a 12 year old, if I had to guess ages. The two senior instructors didn’t teach anything. They circulated, but they weren’t telling the instructors what to teach, nor did I see them correct anything. And each group was doing their own thing. The floor was decent sized, but way too small for 4 groups of at least a dozen students each. I honestly had a headache from the noise level when I left, which as about a half hour into the 45 minute class. Not that I expected anyone to look razor sharp, but no one really looked very good.

    I have no problem with a glorified daycare if that’s what they’re truly pushing. What I have a problem with is how they sell it as TKD and self defense first, and all that other stuff as an added bonus. In reality, the TKD is the added bonus, and the quality of it is pretty lackluster.

    Everyone’s entitled to do what they think is right. Some of the kids and parents love it. They’ve got their reasons. I think it’s awful. I’ve got my reasons. A have a good relationship with several parents who send their kids there. Many say it’s a complete scam. Two have said they hold their kids back from promoting too soon so they can feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. I don’t blame them - they were told the $4k would be for an average of 5-7 years, and not even 2 years later they’re almost up for a new contract. One said their kid has no clue what he’s doing yet they’re telling him he’s great and he’s ready to test for his black belt.

    It is what it is. What it is is definitely not anything I want for my family. To each their own.
     
  6. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

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    Does that lead to a quick promotion to a black belt in their style. Doesn't sound so great to me.
     
  7. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master Black Belt

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    And yeah just another thought (which sort of already was addressed anyway, but just a bit of my experience with it all), my first style was one that many people consider a Mcdojo. I actually enjoyed the training, it being my first martial art, and I was wowed by it all, and to be honest am incredibly grateful to it for spurring my interest to further pursue martial arts.

    There has been a wide variety of feedback as to the teaching quality, some great, some really subpar, and I experienced both of those, so I trained under teachers who I really clicked with and who I thought were great (our family trained all together as well which was a factor).

    There were definitely instructors who just taught the bare bones, no depth into it, and didn't really even look like they enjoyed teaching. Then there were those who loved it, and were able to convey so much, and really took the time with you. They were able to bring out the best in you, and able to get you excited about and interested in training. The art itself was very very watered down, minimal techniques, easily graded people etc etc, and even had doorknocking as their primary sales method (very controversial topic, but if it wasn't for that doorknock I may have not gotten involved in MA at all!), but those few instructors really brought something amazing to the club.

    So even though the art wasn't deep according to many, it really depends on peoples' goals in training, what they're there for, and the individual dojos/instructors. But of course if the topic is "Are all bad teachers mcdojos?" I guess the answer is, it depends!
     
  8. jobo

    jobo Senior Master

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    what you are describe as Mc dojo, could just as easily be,seen as having a business plan that delivers a profit, that is first and foremost the the prime responsibility of a business,

    its comparativly cheap, particularly as it will replace. Child care costs that can on their own be extortion.

    the number of people who can afford to deliver high quality small group training and charge a modest fee are quite limited in number, if you want to earn a decent living, you either need to find a,small number of people who will pay big bucks for quality or a greater number who will part with a lessor amount, but accept the,short falls, just like they drive cars that are not top of the range bmws.

    my own instructer doesn't cover the room costs, from tuition, short of money, he will teach you for free, he earns n income as a,writer so it just a hobby to him. Not everyone is in that position.

    when he is moaning, and he does frequently, I've suggested that he,adopt some of the things you mention above to at least cover his costs, he recoils in horror, charge for belts, tie them to long term contracts, insist they buy their suit from him,,, NEVER,its like he,doesn't think he,should make money, his wife is less happy about the whole thing! As she is working to subside other peoples ma,training,
     
  9. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I’ve got no problem with people making money, even for teaching MA. Somehow people think the MA teacher shouldn’t take money like some vow of poverty monk. That’s just ridiculous.

    But when you sell something at a premium price and tell everyone they’re getting a premium product, they should be getting what they’ve been told they’re getting and not some BS passed off as a MA. When you tell someone they’re going to be taught by a 10th degree black belt with 50 years of experience, that person should be doing the bulk of the teaching rather than passing 99% of it off on teens pre-teens, and coming out and waving to the crowd once every few weeks. I know people who’ve been there a few years and were taught by the head guy no more than a few times. One of them sarcastically said it was like an honor to be taught by him.

    Even if it’s dirt cheap or free, it’s still a con. If they’re told these things up front, I’ve got no problem with it. If they realize it and happily stay, good for them.

    Just because it’s cheaper than daycare doesn’t justify the poor MA teaching. If they’re marketing themselves as a daycare with MA thrown in, I have no complaints. If they’re calling themselves an MA school and MA is the central theme with the rest as an added bonus, there’s a problem.

    Deliver what you claim to deliver.
     
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  10. jobo

    jobo Senior Master

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    but sellers of things, rarely point out that their thing is substandard, Amazon don't go out of their way to tell customers that the kindle fire is very substandard when compared to an iPad, they leave you to work out that for yourself as its 20% of the price.

    making false claims is different. And generaly illegal, so its really a case of how near they get to that line. But by your own admission, the attendees and their parents are happy with the deal, that doesn't suggest sharp practise, happy customers are the second responsibility of a business after profit,

    i know that your something if a hard task master with your children, but as a general rule parents want their children to be happy, rather than skilled at ma, the two are of course not exclusive, but running a TV room and other amenities for children may well help in that. Rather than being repeatedly drilled by a very serious instructer long after it remains fun, if they are there for two hours say, very few kids have an attentions span that long,if fact very few,adults do
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  11. Michele123

    Michele123 Green Belt

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    This is a fascinating discussion to read. The first school I checked out last summer definitely falls into the McDojo category. I walked away unimpressed. They were a chain. Had a lot of flash, but the actual classes had very little MA training. It was mostly just running around and breaking a sweat. At first I considered it, until they revealed the price. It was $10 for a uniform and 10 lessons, but they wouldn’t tell you the price of classes until you’d been to at least half of those. Kids earned a stripe on their belt for every class they attended them got to test (a mere formality) after they had a certain number of stripes. Then the price was based on a “program.” You paid a certain price for a certain number of belts regardless of how long it took you to get there. Like the above example, they claimed it would take you a certain number of years to complete and so was worth it when compared to other schools in the area, but the reality was they just passed people along based on attendance and it was much shorter. Other than learning structure and “yes sir/ma’am” there was nothing really reminiscent of MA in their curriculum. They wouldn’t tell you what style they taught either. They claimed it was Karate, but their website, in fine print said “Americanized Taekwando.” Everything had to be purchased through them.

    The school I attend now is the only other one that isn’t MMA in town. The price is more reasonable and is month by month. Progression through the ranks is not tied to contracts or anything. I’ve seen students fail their tests. It is a Kukikwon school and I seem to have read things on here that suggests it isn’t as good because of that. It definitely seems to have fewer techniques and whatnot for each belt compared to the Shutokan I studied years ago. One thing I dislike is that to compete in tournaments you have to buy equipment from them. They say it is quality control but really it is a business decision. I wish they would just say that up front. I’m sticking with it for now because it is the best option and I like the people but in the future I’d love to return to Karate and find a Shotokan school (since I don’t believe Shutokan exists in the area I now live). Anyhow, this instructor is actually good at teaching and good at explaining theory when I ask. I’m not sure if this would count as a McDojo since he has a day job and whatnot, but the insistence on buying equipment through them gives me pause. Though I’m 90% certain that comes from the association he belongs to and not he himself.




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  12. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    Buying equipment through them does make them McDojo or even a questionable financial thing.

    My previous organization required us to wear their sparring gear. All the parts had a small organization logo on them. Being a former career Marine, the head of that organization wanted uniformity. He grew tired of people showing up with ridiculous looking stuff and people trying to outdo each other with crazy-looking gear. The final straw was people more and more were coming in with inappropriate gear - boxing gloves, MMA gloves, inadequate head gear, etc. He made the rule that everyone wore the same gear. It was available through the dojos for the same price it was everywhere else.
     
  13. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 3rd Black Belt

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    I always get really nervous when a Martial Arts school isn't upfront about their style, almost as if they are ashamed of what they are teaching, or don't want to claim they are doing a certain style because they are afraid of veterans of that style calling them out on it. I wish more styles would take BJJ's approach, by having instructors state their training lineage publicly for people to see, so potential customers won't be mislead.
     
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  14. Balrog

    Balrog Master of Arts

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    No. We have a requirement that our sparring gear be branded, but that was imposed on us by the insurance people to make sure that we are all wearing approved gear that meets certain standards for safety.
     
  15. Michele123

    Michele123 Green Belt

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    But I have the same exact thing that I bought second hand and I cannot use it because I didn’t buy it from the association...


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  16. jobo

    jobo Senior Master

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    but in bjj, all lineage runs back to a Gracie in less than a generation, it would mean nothing at all to me if my instructer cited his instructors instructer, completely meaningless.

    i don't see that having any particular lineage makes you better or worse as in instructer, you either know the techniques and how to teach them or you don't,

    i do some " instruction at the local lads club in boxing, something I've never done in any meaningful way, but you don't need much knowledge to say " keep your guard up" and "move you feet"
     
  17. jobo

    jobo Senior Master

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    does the insurance company also insist you wear sparring gear or just that any gear you do wear is branded

    i suspect that a club thing and he is blaming the insurance companies
     
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  18. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I’m not a taskmaster. Most of my students and colleagues say I’m one of the most lenient teachers here. Most of the parents say I’ve got the best rapport with the students.

    I’ve got rules, but so does everyone. I may be more firm with those rules, but I’ve got less of them than most others. When I send a kid to the principal, he knows it’s legitimate and I’m not one of those that’s sending kids constantly.

    Even though I’ve shown my take no nonsense approach here almost exclusively, I do realize that kids are kids and need to be kids.
     
  19. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I can’t edit now... it should’ve said branded gear DOESN’T mean McDojo.
     
  20. Balrog

    Balrog Master of Arts

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    If somebody bought used gear off Ebay and it's still in good condition, I have no problem with it. That does sound like an issue to be taken up with your chief instructor.
     

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